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Tom Bawle, Mullingar: ‘I got a lot of support from the GAA’

Tuesday, 31st December, 2013 3:30pm
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Tom Bawle, Mullingar: ‘I got a lot of support from the GAA’

Mullingar’s Tom Bawle in his referee’s kit.

Tom Bawle, Mullingar: ‘I got a lot of support from the GAA’

Mullingar’s Tom Bawle in his referee’s kit.

Tom Bawle, Mullingar: ‘I got a lot of support from the GAA’ 

Tasmania based Mullingar man Tom Bawle says he has a lot to thank the GAA for over the last 25 years, including helping him meet his wife Nicky.

Tom left for Australia in 1989 and got involved with the Melbourne GAA. His assimilation was helped by the Westmeath contingent, but his football career didn’t enjoy an auspicious start.

“There was the Smyth brothers, Kevin and Martin, from Castlepollard and the Maher brothers, Mick, Joe and Sean, from Kilbeggan,” said Tom. “I wasn’t one of the stars. I went along on a Sunday and trained and got a jersey. In the first year I did my right knee and received three screws. I was told I wouldn’t play again but I did. I got a lot of support from the GAA during that time.”

The former Mullingar Shamrocks man, whose father Jack and mother Mary live in Mullingar, became the president of the Victorian GAA association, was a coach (how he met his now wife in 2000 when the side she played on were beaten by the team coached by Tom) and a referee.

After moving to Tasmania 11 years ago, where he now runs a hotel, Tom helped establish the Tasmanian Gaelic Football and Hurling Association.

From humble beginnings there are now six male teams and three female teams on the island, and the game is played by a mixture of locals and Irish ex-pats. The association also hosts a popular tournament which attracts teams from all over Australia. Gaelic football has also proved popular with locals and a number of schools feature it in their sports programmes.

The growth of the game in Tasmania has been helped, Tom says, by the increase in young Irish who have emigrated in recent years. “In Hobart there is a big Irish community and St Patrick’s Day is huge. I’ve noticed a lot of new faces.”

Tom, uncle of Westmeath U21 all-Ireland winner, Thomas Cleary, still looks for Westmeath results.

“I love it here, but I still miss home. This time of year is always a bit hard but you get the cards and get on the phone. Skype is a great thing at the moment and makes a huge difference. We have two young girls, Niamh and Siobhan, and they love chatting to their Grandad and Grandmother in Ireland.

“I’d like to wish all my family a merry Christmas and I miss them heaps. Come on Westmeath!”

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